Viewers divided about Countryfile's coverage of controversial driven grouse shooting

Countryfile tackled the controversial countryside pursuit of driven grouse shooting in Sunday night's episode but their coverage divided viewers.

Just after the start of the Glorious Twelfth - the beginning of the grouse shooting season - presenter Charlotte Smith brought together Andrew Gilruth of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), who supports grouse shooting, and Mark Avery, who campaigns for the banning of the activity.

Mark Avery campaigns against grouse shooting (BBC)
Mark Avery campaigns against grouse shooting (BBC)

In 2012, 700,000 red grouse were killed during the season.

Mark argued that breeding enough birds required for the shoots had seen gamekeepers illegally killing protected birds of prey that would otherwise kill the grouse.

In particular, hen harrier numbers had been so vastly reduced that there remained just three pairs in the UK.

The RSPB's head of investigations Bob Elliot agreed that there were thousand of cases of gamekeepers killing birds of prey illegally.

Andrew Gilruth said it was important for the countryside economy (BBC)
Andrew Gilruth said it was important for the countryside economy (BBC)

Andrew claimed that studies had shown that on driven grouse moors, there was actually a higher density of threatened animal species.

It also contributes £100 million a year to the rural economy and underpins 4,000 jobs.

The two sides also discussed the measure of burning the heather on grouse moors to provide the best environment for breeding.

Mark claimed that the burning of heather was leading to problems with flooding and greenhouse gases, while the pro-shooting side said it was preventing wildfires.

Some viewers thought the explanation of the arguments was helpful.

But others thought it failed to capture how serious the issue was.

The issue provoked strong opinion among viewers.

Sadly, the end of the show's debate suggested that there was no obvious solution to the issue.

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